And She Said... And She Said...
Zila Friedman’s scrolls are written in Hebrew. Here and there, one can recognize a word, a number of words and/or a sequence of words, cut off mid-sentence or simply unfinished.
It is as if these scrolls are encrypted in a secret code, like a wizard spell or a shaman’s words, or, perhaps, they are nothing but an abstract, aesthetic pretense wrapped in a senseless semantic mantle, with nothing inside but a mundane act of day-to-day survival.
Either way, the viewer faces sheets of paper containing worlds that both contradict and complement each other. Laid over the dense, black and white, mechanical scribble covering most of the surface is an elongated, yellow rectangle made of foreign newspaper clippings. Filled to bursting with words that have been removed from their original context, the text becomes a texture.
Friedman’s act of deconstruction begins with small, intimate formats; with sketches, pasted-up international newspaper clippings. Obsessively repetitive, her work is the ritual of a post-modern worshipper.
Industrial-scale printing has brought the small-scale paper-acts of scribbling, sketching and collage-making to large, impressive sheets, mysterious gothic formats, totems of mute advertising, the products of a laboratory, birthed by ancient printing presses or, alternatively, printed by modern technology. Therein lie the grace and power of these pieces. A print may not be identical to the original, but it is, at least, similar in size.
This process can be viewed as a manifestation of the artist’s desire to bring the small, intimate, personal and human act of sketching to a larger scale and greater accuracy, to adapt it to this place we live in – a complex, mechanical world filled with textual and visual messages, an age when visibility has become inseparable from meaning.
But this vague and compulsive text is not entirely meaningless – a fact no doubt noted by the viewer upon discerning such legible bits as “Berlin”, “Los Angeles”, “TIONAL FAIR EMPORARY ART” or the Hebrew phrase that translates to “and in another place she said... and she said...”
These are not the earnest preaching of a prophet at the gate, but neither do they belong to the village idiot excluded from the social circle, unable to have an opinion of the world around him. They are proclamations for the learned nation, versed in the secrets of the encoded language. Even dressed in a masquerade of abstract aesthetic visibility, they are loaded with personal, human meanings.
Those acquainted with Zila Friedman will find it difficult to ignore her spiritual world, where texts, words religious ritual and, of course, symbolism bear a great significance. Her art has its roots deep in the fertile ground of the traditional Jewish culture she was raised on.
Positioned as they are, in this space, her works are deeply associated with a contemporary, secular prayer space, riddled with doubts and hesitations. The viewer is surrounded by enigmatic images.
These works are the artist’s way of exposing contemporary art-making processes. According to Zila Friedman, the act of making art is no longer the act of a reclusive genius alone in his studio, no longer the brilliant, virtuosic act catalyzed by a divine spark possessed only by a chosen few; it is a labor of collecting, designing, producing and positioning. Thus, as part of her post-Renaissance work process, Friedman even curates her own exhibition.
“The artist assembles the cast of his work from A to Z, as he delivers it from the void.”
Assad Azi 2016